The Facebook Detox: Reconsidering What I Need From Facebook

After reading articles like this (http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/WWW2010.html) and this (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.readwriteweb.com%2Farchives%2Fwhy_facebook_is_wrong_about_privacy.php&h=01a8d), not to mention loads of others, I’ve been getting more and more uncomfortable with continuing to use Facebook as my main social network. It’s been occupying a lot of the time I spend thinking about the internet (which is, let’s be honest, just plain a lot of time). Out for drinks with a friend on Friday night, it turned out both of us were having similar misgivings about Facebook, and both of us are starting to think it’s time to move on. Our reasons for wanting to go are the same: increasing discomfort with Facebook’s privacy policies and Mark Zuckerberg’s increasing megalomania are losing our trust – which, as has been said again and again, is one of the only real currencies Facebook has when it comes to its users.

More interestingly, from my perspective, the things keeping us from leaving the service are the same, and boil down to two main points:

  1. We don’t want to lose our data
  2. Fear of slipping away from access to mainstream internet use.

 

As someone who has always been ahead of the general internet curve when it comes to adopting new services, I’m not too concerned about the second point. Since 1993, I’ve been using the internet to connect with niche interest groups from scifi fandoms to geography-based communities.

To me, the first point is my immediate concern. I want to leave Facebook, but I have taken literally hundreds of phone photos over the last few years, and now it seems like getting those photographs is going to involve manually clicking through each album and saving them to hard disk. It’s a step I’m almost ready to take, but it seems surprising to me that nobody has created a program that will take my data from my account and zip it into a nice, neat folder.

Knowing that an easy way to download-and-delete my profile information probably isn’t going to come along any time soon, instead I decided to at least limit the potential for Facebook to keep invading my life: I deleted the Facebook app from my iTouch on Friday night and haven’t missed it since.

My rationale is that now I have to go to the facebook website – a practice which served me just fine for the first three years I was on the service – and make the effort to engage with the platform, and this may refine and improve the quality of the time I spend on th service, while discouraging me from placing extraneous data there just because it’s the easiest way to quickly share information.

As for the bulk of the links my facebook friends have been enjoying (or not) on my site? Well, I can still link all that to Twitter, where I don’t share nearly the level of personal connectivity with my readers on an ongoing basis (even though you guys are awesome, you’re still part of the Internet at Large and I’m trying to be smart about that!).

Ever since I first downloaded Semagic, I’ve been trying to balance my use of apps with my use of website; this has become harder since the rise of Apple’s App store/iTunes, but for people like me who like to immerse ourselves in as much of the internet as we can, taking a step back from those apps may offer an option  

By Sunday morning, I’d refocused my idea of using Facebook for what I wanted to use it for – keeping an open line of communication with people I care about having in my life – rather than what Zuckerberg and the rest of the company want me to use it for – putting every detail of my online life in one easily accessible place. Did a major friends-list cull, taking out those people who don’t really use this as a method of keeping in real contact, or the people whose lives (I’m sorry to say) I’m just not that in need of constant awareness of.

Moral: One way to take a step back from computer/internet overuse/addiction is to go back to using websites rather than apps to access your information. It forced me to slow down and reconsider why I want to be using Facebook – which, I’m confident, will ultimately improve my use of the service as and if I continue to use it.

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